I have taken a good spell of time off from this blog. I was busy all spring and summer long with work, with planning my wedding and everything that went along with it, dealing with family issues and illnesses and loss. Never have I experienced such a mix of joy and pain in a six month period. So, my writing took a back seat to other life issues. Then, we were overseas for three weeks in early fall, to host a second Italian wedding, do some work in bell'Italia, and to enjoy our Mediterranean honeymoon.
But now, I'm back. We're back. And what better way to celebrate autumn (my favorite season), and all things New York City, than with a virtual visit to Manhattan's beloved Union Square Greenmarket? Most produce and food markets seem to hit their peak in late summer, when the abundance of summer fruit and vegetables explodes, rendering the markets lush and colorful. And I do love summer at Union Square, and any market, really. But to me, the best time for a greenmarket in The Big Apple is during the best season in The Big Apple: Autumn in New York, of course! I love exploring the collection of pumpkins and squash varieties, mostly edible but with some decorative gourds thrown in. These are the colors of fall, in food form (see photo at right). I love sipping on cider as I stroll through the market aisles -- either cold, when the weather leans more towards Indian Summer, or hot cider, when the air is crisp and calls for a scarf. Union Square in its autumn glory signals the season for me, and I love it.
A brief backgrounder: the Union Square Greenmarket was founded in 1976 with just a handful of farmers selling their goods, but now USQ is the flagship greenmarket in Grow NYC's Greenmarket organization. In the mid-'80s, Danny Meyer's Union Square Cafe helped to revitalize the neighborhood, as the ethos of the groundbreaking restaurant was to lift up the farming community local to the New York metro area. Today, the USQ Greenmarket boasts 140 regional farmers (produce and animal), bakers, and fishmongers selling their wares in peak season. Union Square is one of the city's great public spaces, and roaming around the market -- especially on a Saturday afternoon -- the atmosphere is festive and lively, with as many as 60,000 shoppers passing through the market stalls. There are market tours for students, locals, and tourists alike, and there are always cooking demos and book signings happening with the city's local chefs and food experts. Speaking as a professional chef in this city, I can recommend Union Square greenmarket as THE place to purchase quality food products, herbs, and all kinds of edible goodies.
Farms from New York's Hudson Valley, Long Island, New Jersey, and even eastern Pennsylvania set up shop at the market on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and/or Saturdays. They offer delicious seasonal produce, but also top-quality duck and poultry and game (take it from me: ostrich meatballs are delicious, people! And very sustainable). Blue Oyster Cultivation's specialty is not just in a snappy name, but also mushroom cultivation. Flying Pig Farms offers rare breed and heritage pork products, dairy, and eggs. There's Roaming Acres Ostrich. There's Prospect Hill Orchards and Migliorelli Farm and Samascott Orchards -- amazing this time of year for more varieties of apples, pears, and grapes than you imagined possible.
USQ features the Union Square Grassman, serving up wheatgrass and organic microgreen shoots. There's Hudson Valley Duck, for some great breasts, whole birds and various duck products. There's just-caught fish and seafood from local waters, like Pura Vida fish (fresh and smoked), and delicious dairy products. Case in point: I recently bought some mozzarella di bufala from Riverine Ranch, a water buffalo farm in southern New Jersey (go, Garden State!) with some admitted skepticism.
I'd just returned from several weeks in premiere mozzarella territory in Campania, Italy where I'd eaten my weight in caprese salads. So imagine my surprise when I tossed some gorgeous grape tomatoes with a chiffonade of basil, arugula, extra virgin Italian olive oil, and balsamic, and paired it with this New Jersey buffalo milk mozzarella -- and found it to be incredibly delicious! (note: I had tried ricotta di bufala from a Vermont producer in the USQ greenmarket a few years back, and was supremely disappointed with its lack of flavor). My mind has been happily changed.
Some of the artisanal producers include Beth's Farm Kitchen for jams, pickles, and the like. There is Hawthorne Valley Farms, She Wolf Bakery, Francesca's Bakery and Las Delicias for baked goods, including gluten-free items. There's Tremblay Apiaries, taking care of our bees and their honey production.
Rosehaven Alpacas sells wool and handcrafts made from alpaca fiber. Martin's Pretzels from Pennsylvania Dutch country are a perennial favorite with an addictive crunch. There's Long Island potato vodka and wines from local vineyards, like Breezy Hill Orchard. There are flower and plants and herb sellers like James Durr Flowers and Fantastic Gardens.
And of course there are tons of fruit and vegetable sellers, including, sometimes, Terhune Orchards from Princeton, my beloved hometown orchard. Sellers come from within 100 miles of New York City -- proof positive that New York is more than just a world hub, more than just a restaurant and food nexus, more than just The Big Apple. It's pretty much everything you could want in one part of the country, especially if you love things that are fresh, homemade, local, high quality, and delicious. We knew all along that New Yorkers have great taste!
UNION SQUARE GREENMARKET
Monday - Wednesday - Friday - Saturday
8 a.m. - 6 p.m.